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Mother did not like the friends I made on our European tour. She considered Francine and Jean, the girls with whom I most associated, to be fast, intemperate, and fanatical for boys. I vehemently disputed the characterizations but knew that they were in fact all of those things, which was partially what drew me to them. Though they bore the near names of my oldest friends, they were as unlike Frances and Jane as one could imagine—particularly at night. During the day, as we attended historic sights, as we punted in Oxford and bicycled in Holland, as we toured through Luxembourg Gardens and Kew Gardens, and the palaces of Windsor and Mary Queen of Scott’s, they behaved as might any young woman of the times. At night, after the older members of our group retired, they were entirely different. Being in their twenties and abroad, they thought they should indulge in all kinds of activities they might not at home. In the late-night hours in the small and large cities of our tour, they smoked, drank, and caroused, and I joined them in much of this.


The carousing came in the form of identifying, declaring, and then pursuing men on whom we had a crush. While my Brampton Frances was always attuned to the crushes of others and readily shared with me her knowledge of them, disclosure of her own crushes came slowly and quietly, as mine did to her—frequently being disclosed only after they had passed unrequited.

This was not the way with Francine and Jean, who made no secret of the object of their amorous interest—not from each other and me and barely from the subject of their interest. ….

Midway through our tour, having generally served as the chaperone for Francine and Jean and their respective crushes, my friends insisted I partake in more than the dancing and occasional smoking and drinking. Thus, in Stratford I had crushes on two men and in Scotland another. Perhaps because I was so inexperienced, I was not as successful in my pursuits as was Francine, whose crushes always resulted in passionate kisses and embraces and tearful goodbyes. Nor was I as successful as Jean, whose crushes at least sometimes resulted in amorous activity. It was this situation that Francine and Jean resolved should be remedied on our return voyage.

Our initial efforts were impeded by a strong bout of the seasickness that I had avoided on the crossing to France. I was not able to walk to the upper decks of the Montnairn until the third day of our return voyage,.. [at which time]… I scoured the boat …. in search of my friends. I finally found them in the lounge with three men they had selected as our set. In a barely concealed volume, they indicated that the tall slightly older man, Roger, was intended for Francine; the shorter French man, Pierre, was intended for Jean; and the stockier, bespectacled man, David was intended for me.

I was delayed meeting up with our set the next night. Mother, who was counting down the days until we returned and I was out of the “clutches” of Francine and Jean, insisted that I play a few hands of cards with her, Ina, and Nora in the ship’s salon before meeting my friends in the lounge. …. By ten o’clock, I was back in our room, donning the green dress in which I had had such success the night before. I brushed my hair, waging an unsuccessful battle to flatten its ocean-air imbued curls, applied a small amount of rouge and lipstick, and gave myself one final turn in the mirror. Considering myself as well put together as the evening before, I went in search of my friends in the lounge.

It was ten thirty by the time I arrived. People had started to dance, but neither Francine nor Jean was among those so engaged. Scanning the room, I caught Jean’s eye. She and Pierre were standing in a corner, each holding a glass of champagne. She waved me over with a big smile on her face. I could see Francine’s head bobbing above the back of one of the large winged-back chairs next to them. As I approached my friends, I noticed that Francine’s head above the back of the large chair was at an odd angle and was unusually high. I assumed she was perched on Roger’s lap. Over the past month, I had often seen her on the lap of the man with whom she was then involved. I assumed that David was in the chair beside them, waiting for me. Being shorter, his head would certainly not be seen from the back of the large chair.

I picked up my step, anxious to resume the merriment of the night before, totally unprepared for the spectre that faced me as I came to face my friends. Jean and Pierre were standing in the corner of the room, as they had been since the moment I entered it. David and Roger, across from them were, as I expected, sitting in the large wingback chairs. Francine was indeed on the lap of the man on whom she had a crush. But in the hours that had passed, her affections had been transferred. It was Roger who sat on the chair alone. Francine sat on David’s lap.

“You’re right, Jessie,” Francine said as I looked at them, “David is a peach.” With that, she leaned down and kissed him on the lips.



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Ben McNally